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2023 Rutherford Medal: Transforming research for Indigenous peoples

Distinguished Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou) CNZM FRSNZ has been awarded the Rutherford Medal for her preeminent role in advancing education and research for Te Ao Māori, her groundbreaking scholarship in decolonisation of research methodologies, and her pioneering contribution to transforming research for Indigenous Peoples globally.

As a student, Linda joined the activist group Ngā Tamatoa, to promote Te Reo Māori and protest against breaches of Te Treaty of Waitangi.

Linda was a founding member of the Kura Kaupapa Māori movement, and has been at the forefront of critical educational initiatives within both mainstream tertiary contexts and wānanga.

As Joint Pro Vice-Chancellor (Māori), at the University of Auckland, she co-developed the first undergraduate and graduate courses on Māori education.

Since then, through her leadership in education and academia, she has changed the way that institutions work with Māori – to create intellectual spaces for students and researchers to embrace their identities and transcend dominant narratives.

Linda’s scholarship has informed Kaupapa Māori education, theory, and research; Mana Wahine feminist discourses; Māori research on health; and understanding of historical and intergenerational trauma. 

Linda’s influential publication Decolonising Methodologies, Research and Indigenous Peoples (1999) has had a profound influence across the social sciences.  First published more than 20 years ago, the text continues to resonate and be used by Indigenous scholars globally, raking in 283,000 citations to-date and being translated into five languages.

The text traces the history of Western concepts of research and knowledge, and critiques their use in the context of colonisation of Indigenous peoples.

She asserts a challenging vision for a new era of research, based on “a more critical understanding of the underlying assumptions, motivations and values that inform research practices".

She calls for the “decolonisation” of methodologies, if research and education are to benefit Māori and other Indigenous peoples.

Linda has written many other books, chapters, and articles, which have made her one of the most influential and internationally recognised Māori researchers of our time.

She is currently Distinguished Professor, Rangahau and Mātauranga Capability, at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. 

Linda has previously held other influential leadership roles including the Pro-Vice Chancellor Māori, Director of Te Kotahi Research Institute, and Dean of the School of Māori and Pacific Development at the University of Waikato; President of the New Zealand Association for Research in Education; member of the Council of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi; Chair of the Māori Health Committee and member of the Health Research Council of New Zealand; and member of the Royal Society Te Apārangi’s Marsden Fund Council.

She was a member of the government-appointed Advisory Panel on New Zealand’s Constitutional Arrangements, and is a current member of the Waitangi Tribunal.

Royal Society Te Apārangi awarded Professor Smith the Dame Joan Metge medal in 2012, and the inaugural Te Puāwaitanga Award in 2018. She was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2016.

The New Zealand Association for Research presented her with its McKenzie Award for Education in 2015, and the Prime Minister’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Education in 2017.

She has also been honoured as a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association and was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2021. In 2013, she was named a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for her work in support of Māori research and education.

She currently sits on the Independent Strategic Panel which will make recommendations to Cabinet about national priorities that will guide research, science and innovation over the next decade. 

Linda was a founding Director of New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, and she has been exceptionally active and generous in her contributions to building research capability for Māori scholars and researchers.

She has supervised many students at both Masters and Doctoral Levels, and was instrumental in establishing the Te Kupenga o MAI Postgraduate programme for Māori at universities throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, to foster development of future researchers, teachers, and leaders. 

Her contribution in research capacity and capability building has been central to her role as a scholar and she has been exceptionally active and generous in this regard providing support not only nationally but also internationally in the development of Postgraduate pipelines including being instrumental in the embedding of the MAI Postgraduate programme nationally as Director of Nga Pae o Te Maramatanga. 

In 2016, Linda took on the role of Professor of Māori and Indigenous Studies, Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies, University of Waikato. More recently in 2021, she was appointed as Distinguished Professor Research and Mātauranga Capability Building Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiārangi where she still works.

Rutherford Medal:
The Rutherford Medal is awarded for preeminent research in any field of science, humanities, or technology, and other exceptional contributions to education, public understanding, or research institutions.

To Linda Tuhiwai Te Rina Smith for world recognised scholarship in decolonising and Indigenous research methodologies that has transformed many disciplines and led to innovative research methodologies.